On The Side Humour

The funny side of…language

Published Mar 27, 2015 12:58pm

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– Illustration by Fahad Naveed
– Illustration by Fahad Naveed

There is Penglish which is Pakistani English which is, well, something. And then, there is Ppenglish: Pakistani Punjabi English. Now, since I don’t speak Pashto, I cannot even say what the other Ppenglish would be.

But knowing some Pakhtuns, all I know is this would really be something. And, with this, I see smoke coming out of the ears of all those Pakhtun who read this. Take it easy, chaps. But for goodness’ sake don’t take yourselves so seriously. That causes constipation. We Punjabis are makers of wonders. Consider how we have taught the rest of Pakistan to run trawlers on the country’s highways. If we go by the half dozen or so English language newspapers, we have brought them in from the high seas, where they trawled for fish, and have them routinely careening up and down our high roads, totally out of control. Every day, we hear of a trawler or two involved in some accident or the other.

Here is how we got the trawlers beached. Back in the 1970s a towed vehicle in Punjabi was a ‘traila’. By the late 1980s, the word had morphed into ‘traala’. But we Punjabis (especially crime reporters of English newspapers) know that ‘waater’ is incorrectly pronounced water, so ‘traala’ should also be ‘trawler’. And so, with the blink of a blighted eye, we got the ocean-going fishing vessels involved in accidents with trains and lorries, until most people will not believe you when you say trawlers are ships.

Then, there is ‘ABC Poultry Form’. You would think this was some kind of a form to be filled in for a record of birds. But no. The standard Punjabi pronunciation of the English word ‘farm’ being ‘faarum’, it was only natural for it to become ‘form’ — the same was as a ‘file’ magically transforms into ‘foil’ and off you go fencing. (I told you, we Punjabis are miracle makers.)

We also have poultry ‘foam’. And when you make it big, selling these ‘formy’ birds, you can build yourself a ‘form’ house. The only form in such houses, generally, is extravagantly obscene exhibition.

Our best – and, for this, I cannot even credit Punjabis – is the pronunciation for faalij, the Arabic word for paralysis. In our keenness to alter the sound of a, as in ‘father’ to a as in ‘water’, we have invented a new word ‘faulij’ for the original Arabic. This, incidentally, is also the Penglish pronunciation for ‘foliage’. Happily, in order to suffer an attack of faulij, you do not even have to be semi-literate or Punjabi. You can hear doctors telling you how to prevent this debilitating disease.

Jokers, especially political jokers, are to be ‘loffed’ at in Punjabi. Loff at them all you want, especially at those who wear hairpieces that never go grey, have hair transplants and still appear bald and/or look as slimy as they actually are. That about includes the entire lot of them. But you ‘daunt’ loff at their funerals, even if you prayed hard for all of them to die miserable, painful deaths.

Not content doing English here at home, we are also teaching the Brits a thing or two. For example Watford, just outside London, is now ‘Wut-ford’. Chesham has taken the Persian form of ‘chashm’ for ‘eye’.

That is not all. We have also successfully transplanted Luddun from south Punjab to some ways northwest of London. By the time we Punjabis take over Old Blighty (and we Punjabi Muslims will, let there be no doubt), Luton will have appropriately re-written signboards. That is when the pubs of that once merry land will serve ‘points’ instead of pints of ale. And, mind, the consumption of the brew will be strictly clandestine.

PS: I just love how Punjabis refrain from using the word bhen to refer to sisters. And that is because of the obscene cuss word prefixed with bhen, now peppering even normal Punjabi conversation. So a self-respecting Punjabi will never tell you how many sistraan (nasal ending, please) he has.